Trial of ultrasound-based Alzheimer’s treatment begins

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A University of Queensland research into dementia treatment using ultrasound has started its year-long human safety trial.

The trial aims to determine whether ultrasound could be safely delivered as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It is being conducted at Mater Hospital Brisbane and UQ and involves 12 participants.

HOW IT WORKS

The ultrasound treatment is delivered fortnightly to each participant, treating the area at the back of the brain that is affected early in the course of Alzheimer’s disease. A treatment session also includes an MRI brain scan, EEG, and cognitive tests before and after each course. 

This latest research follows a pioneering discovery in 2015 when ultrasound was used to clear toxic amyloid-b plaque build-up – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s – in the brains of mice and restore memory functions. 

The present safety trial is supported by a A$5 million investment by the Advance Queensland initiative of the Queensland government. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the second leading cause of death in Australia, affecting almost one in 10 senior Australians. 

As of late, there is no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, according to Jürgen Götz, research head and professor at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute. “[I]t is hugely rewarding that we could in the future potentially treat the disease with ultrasound,” he shared.

Prof Götz also mentioned that the safety trial is the culmination of a decade’s worth of research by the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, which seeks to drive treatments and interventions for dementia. 

THE LARGER TREND

Two other promising digital therapeutics for treating Alzheimer’s disease have come out over the past five years. One of them is a gamma frequency neuromodulation therapy device developed by US-based startup Cognito Therapeutics. In March last year, the company announced positive results from its Phase 2 trial of the DTx which was given a breakthrough designation by the US FDA two months prior. 

Another DTx is the DTHR-ALZ by Dthera Sciences, which delivers treatments by displaying pictures of loved ones or memories through a digital tablet with a front-facing camera to guide the viewer’s emotions, thereby reducing or preventing agitation. It was also given a breakthrough designation in 2018 but its commercialisation fell through due to limited CMS reimbursements and failures of candidate Alzheimer’s drugs.

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